'Direct eye contact' case 'outrages' Dayton FOP

City Manager Warren Price responds to FOP statement.
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The Dayton Fraternal Order of Police on Friday expressed “outrage” over the city’s apology in the “direct eye contract” traffic stop case and that prompted a response from the city manager.

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“The Dayton Fraternal Order of Police is outraged by the City of Dayton’s ‘Apology’ in a reaction to the media blitz concerning a traffic stop conducted by a young Dayton Police Officer,” Officer Michael Galbraith, Dayton FOP president said in the statement.

“To clear the air about this incident and the inflammatory insinuations reported by local and national news, this was a lawful stop. The officer involved simply recognized behavior he thought was suspicious and out of the ordinary. He then waited for a reason to conduct a lawful traffic stop on the driver of the vehicle. This is not bad; it is not racist; it is simply police work.”

Wednesday evening during the City Commission meeting, City Manager Warren Price and Commissioner Joey Williams issued apologies for the incident involving Officer Randy Betsinger, which has attracted national attention because of the cell phone video shot by the man he stopped, John Felton, the night of Aug. 15.

Price also said the police department would begin an investigation into the traffic stop and that Betsinger, who marks one year with the department this month, will be retrained.

In the cell phone video that has gone viral, Betsinger pulled over Felton for turn signal violation, but also told him: “You made direct eye contact with me and held onto it when I was passing you on Salem (Avenue).”

City leaders agree the turn signal violation occurred, but said the traffic stop video demonstrated a “breakdown in communication” and led to a misperception of the city and its police force.

Galbraith, in the statement, also said the following:

“This officer was placed on a special assignment in this neighborhood to combat drug crimes, traffic crashes and gun violence. He was tasked with strict enforcement in an effort to make this community safer. By all accounts, this young officer was polite and professional in his demeanor and a review of the entire audio of the incident indicates that he advised the driver of the traffic violation for which he was stopped. It is the opinion of the FOP that the media coverage of this incident has been at best, irresponsible. Failing to provide the public with a complete rendition of available audio pertaining to the traffic stop is just an attempt to sensationalize the facts of the incident to illicit a public outcry.

Across this nation, five police officers have been murdered over the past two weeks. Yet these stories seem to take a backseat to media smear campaigns against our profession. Our officers come to work each day to serve and protect this community. This incident was an excellent opportunity for the City Management and the elected officials to stand behind our officer. Instead, they conducted a press release stating they are going to re-train the officer. By choosing to give credence to a complaint which has no merit, they are simply encouraging the hateful rhetoric and re-enforcing the extremist element of our community who encourage violence against our officers.

It is time for someone in the public eye to take a stand for Law Enforcement. Instead of appeasing the public for fear of being politically incorrect, we should demand that our leadership take a stand FOR law enforcement.”

Galbraith ends the statement with a threat:

“I encourage our members to take notice of our local elected officials. Be aware which of our politicians are defending us. We should identify those who are staying silent or encouraging this climate of violence and hatred against us. We should make our voices heard now and in future elections. It is not in our nature to simply lie down and surrender.”

Late Friday afternoon, Price, issued the following statement in response to the FOP statement:

“In response to the letter issued by the Dayton Fraternal Order of Police today, I would like to offer the following clarifications regarding my statement of September 2. I emphasized then and repeat now that the traffic stop made by Officer Betsinger on August 15 was a lawful stop. My concern was about the lack of understanding between the officer and Mr. Felton and the perceptions that resulted. My tenure as City Manager demonstrates my support of City employees and public safety employees specifically. The City Commission and I have worked closely with President Galbraith, our police administration, and officers throughout my time as Dayton City Manager and will continue to work with President Galbraith and the Fraternal Order of Police on matters of importance to the police work force. The safety of our officers and of our community continue to be my top priority as City Manager.”